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flag Brazil - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 3 - 01/23/97

Paulo Coelho
The Valkyries

Brazilian Paulo Coelho is perhaps best known for his novel The Alchemist, about a man who is learning to follow his dreams. Coelho has been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but this has probably more to do with his geographical origin than anything else. Although the story in The Alchemist may be described as fantastic-realistic, Coelho has a spiritual background that differs from Marquez (and most others). Readers may view The Alchemist as being more symbolic and less realistic than the writer had hoped for. Anyhow, besides describing a man's exciting adventure into the unknown, it contains enough universal wisdom to be recommended.

Seeing the paperback cover of The Valkyries, I assumed this was another fictional story from Coelho (it has a typical fantasy/SF-literature cover, lush colours, a painting of a strange human figure). The cover says 'fiction' but Coelho insists that this story is based on his personal experiences, and that fiction only occurs in a couple of less important places. Boring, I thought, and disappointment fell over me.

But Coelho's own story proved to be a fascinating one! In fact, The Valkyries is a more fantastic tale than The Alchemist, giving us a peek into a world where the existance of angels and saints are taken for granted. Coelho sets out on a quest to see his angel. The fact that his wife joins him on this adventure, helps making the story more realistic, because at times she shows a fair share of scepticism, which I am sure also many readers will. The quest takes many unexpected turns, and is in fact never boring.

It never occurred to me to think of The Alchemist as a part of the new-age bag. Neither did I think of the story as being inspired by the occult. But after reading The Valkyries, I had to view The Alchemist from a slightly different angle. There is no doubt that Coelho's spiritual world qualify for the new-age label. Loosely based on Christian mysticism, the heavy use of secret rituals (and secrecy in general) also suggests that this is an occult world. And Coelho does not hide the fact that frightening experiences exists in this world; his short rendezvous with these darker forces is told very convincingly.

On the other side, people who doubt the existence of such a spiritual world, may explain everything that Coelho experiences during his quest to see his angel, as results of meditations, extreme role-playing (also mentioned by Coelho himself) and delerious fantasies. Add some funny coincidences, and you're there. Nevertheless, The Valkyries tells an exciting story.

Copyright © 1997 Knut Tore Breivik e-mail address

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